We’ve thought of the Marshall Mid on-ear headphones as one of the best portable solutions for modern listeners since we first laid ears on them. A compact and stylish set of foldable Bluetooth headphones, the Marshall Mid empower music with an energy that’s unparalleled in the mid-tier price bracket — a credit to Marshall’s wealth of experience making amplifiers for many of the most iconic musicians of all time.
With the new Marshall Mid A.N.C. (Active Noise-Canceling) model ($269), the company pushes its excellent on-ear headphones firmly into the travel sector, helping listeners enjoy the sounds of their favorite bands on trains, in airports, and on bustling streets without outside interruptions. We may prefer the lower price tag (originally $200, now $81 at Amazon) of the original Mid, but that doesn’t mean we don’t see the appeal of the new A.N.C. model. With the same great styling, sound signature, and the addition of high-quality noise reduction, the Marshall Mid A.N.C. still offer listeners a better value proposition — and much more stylish looks — than many other noise-canceling models we’ve tested. Needless to say, we’re adding their name to the shortlist of headphones we’d recommend for the well-travelled.
Out of the Box
The Mid come in a classy black box with embossed gold lettering. Inside you’ll find the headphones, a micro-USB charging cable, a detachable 3.5 mm cable with a remote for wired listening, and a black leather travel case that’s lined with the same sort of red velvet you find in classic cinemas. Both an in-depth user guide and a quick-start guide are included.
Features and Design
At first glance, there are very few differences between the old Mid model and the new A.N.C. version. The compact headphones feature the same loveable square earcups with metal and leather construction, adding in a small, round switch on the back of the right earcup to control noise cancelling.
Though the addition of the switch and subsequent noise-cancelling tech is the only functional change between models, there are numerous aesthetic touches that suggest Marshall didn’t just slap this update together: The cursive Marshall logo on the back of each earcup has been changed from white to gold, the round metal buttons on the inside of the headband indicating which earcup is left or right are now black instead of brass, and the bottom of the headband has been changed from leather to a more supple — and less slippery — black velvet.
One thing we’re overjoyed to see hasn’t changed between versions is the eraser-style control stick affixed to the back of the left earcup, directly opposite the new wireless switch on the right. Rather than futz with complicated touch controls or multiple buttons, Marshall’s brass control mechanism offers simple and intuitive control. Press and hold it to power the headphones on and off, tap it in to play or pause music, push left or right to switch songs, and press up or down to adjust volume. Coupled with the simple on-off A.N.C. switch, the new Mid model may be the most easily controlled headphones we’ve ever tested that offer this much technology. As reviewers who spend far too much time staring at tiny headphone manuals, we can’t praise the simplicity enough.
As on the first Mid headphones, a micro-USB charging port is located on the bottom of the right earcup, with the battery inside capable of delivering a class-leading 30 hours of juice without noise-cancelling enabled, and a respectable 20 hours with it engaged.
Numerous aesthetic touches suggest Marshall didn’t just slap this update together.
Those who run out of power — or who own a cell phone that hasn’t walked them off the wireless cliff just yet — will be happy to see the 3.5 mm port just above the micro-USB inlet, artfully hidden by a cave-like recession on the bottom of the right earcup.
Also returning are the same solid metal brackets with a well-designed hinge for folding the headphones into the included carrying case, along with a robust click-to-adjust headband that stays perfectly in position once set it to your head size.
Tiny black slits toward the top of the headphones mark the microphone inlets for the noise-canceling technology, and one nearly unnoticeable pinprick on the right earcup houses the microphone for making wireless calls.
Setting up the Marshall Mid A.N.C. is as easy as holding the power button for five seconds, finding them on your Bluetooth-enabled device, and pairing. Wired use is as easy as plugging in the included 3.5 mm cable and pressing play.
Marshall maintains the same scooped tuning we loved on the first Mid model, slightly boosting lows and highs and pulling out a touch of midrange (a profile the company is proud enough print on the outside of the box) to create a sound profile that’s both approachable and vibrant. The 40 mm dynamic drivers inside these on-ears easily cover everything from punchy bass notes to shimmering jazz drum brushes.
There’s a buttery depth to the way that the Mid reproduces our favorite music, with modern hits like Natalie Prass’ Short Court Style offering head-bobbing passion throughout its expertly layered mix, and the rambling country grooves of Buck Meek’s Cannonball! coming through with compelling energy many other headphones just don’t deliver.
There’s a buttery depth to the way that the Mid A.N.C reproduce our favorite music.
Very few headphones manage to impart so much power into a mix without muddying it. The Mid A.N.C. are impressively nimble at showcasing the layers of each song, even with the slight boost on the high and low ends of the sound. They don’t bury subtle elements like the 12-string guitar hiding in the background of Michael Rault’s I’ll Be There, but they do add some pumping energy to the drum kit. Likewise, they don’t cover up the quieter female background vocals on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, but they do bring out the shimmer of the acoustic guitars and John McVie’s bass lines.
We praised the original Mid model for its excellent passive noise isolation, which came largely from a tight clamping force from the headband that keeps the padded leather earpads securely over your ears. The active noise cancelling takes the sonic isolation offered by the first version and turns it up to 11, particularly when it comes to lower frequencies like those from HVAC systems and jet engines. That A.N.C. tech combines with the already-great passive isolation to provide a very clear canvas for the headphones to paint music over, making for a very quiet listening experience overall.
The plucky little Marshalls don’t quite enter the same echelon of sheer isolation as more expensive headphones like the Bose QC35 II or Sony WH-1000xM2, but that doesn’t mean they are a slouch when it comes to silence. These are easily among the most impressive noise-cancelling on-ears we’ve ever tested.
Marshall offers a one year limited warranty that covers defects in materials or workmanship.Our Take
The Marshall Mid A.N.C. are a great portable headphone model for listeners who want to block out the outside world, but who don’t want the same boring looks and sound offered by the vast majority of noise-canceling models.
Is there a better alternative?
The Mid A.N.C. occupy a unique place in the noise-cancelling headphone space, both in terms of sound and price. They outperform more affordable models like the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, but lose out to more premium models like the Sony WH-1000xM2, with virtually no competitors in the mid-$200 price bracket. In addition to unique pricing, the Mid A.N.C. bring a youthful aesthetic to the often sterile traveling headphone space, making them an option that will appeal to more stylish travelers. In fact, their best competitor may be the original Mid model, which offers the same great looks, sound, and battery life, and offers robust passive noise isolation.
How long will it last?
Marshall has a long history of manufacturing high quality audio products, and our experience with their previous on-ear models has us convinced that these headphones will last several years before needing to replace them.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Marshall Mid A.N.C. is a unique product in the noise-cancelling headphone market that melds great looks, warm and punchy sound, and the ability to seal out the outside world. They may cost a pretty penny more than the step-down Mid model, but excellent noise reduction means you get what you pay for.