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Marshall’s latest earbuds take direct aim at Apple AirPods, AirPods Pro

Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, it remains the most influential company when it comes to true wireless earbuds, and Marshall is using that to its advantage with the launch of two new models that are designed to compete directly with the AirPods and AirPods Pro: The $129 Marshall Minor III and $199 Marshall Motif ANC. You can pre-order the Motif ANC today from Marshall, with sales starting on September 30. The Minor III can be purchased starting today.

Apple’s earbuds are incredibly popular, but the company has remained content to only offer them in white. That preserves the instantly recognizable look of Apple’s products, but it doesn’t do much for people who would prefer something a little more stylish. And style has always been Marshall’s strong suit. Leveraging the classic guitar amp heritage of the Marshall brand, the Minor III and Motif ANC are the stylistic equivalent of giving Apple’s earbuds a rock ‘n’ roll bad boy makeover.

The Minor III and Motif ANC’s features will feel very familiar to Apple fans. The Minor III offer a dead-simple wireless experience, with a set of buds that have an open shape instead of silicone eartips. Shape-wise, they’re nearly identical to the AirPods. Even their wireless charging case uses the same flip-top size and shape. Marshall claims the Minor III “will blow you away” with 12mm drivers that are custom-tuned to deliver enhanced bass, smooth mids, and clear highs.

That’s hopefully no overstatement, because other than sound and style, the Minor III are incredibly bare-bones. There’s no app for EQ adjustments or control customization, and while they mimic the AirPods’ auto-pause feature when you remove an earbud, they don’t have any way of letting you trigger a voice assistant like Siri or Google Assistant. The controls are limited to play/pause, call answer/end, and track skip forward/back. Battery life is nearly identical to the AirPods (five hours per charge, 25 hours total time with the case included), and even their protection from water (IPX4) is the same as Apple’s buds.

Sticking with the cooler-than-Apple theme, the Motif ANC offer an AirPods Pro experience. You get active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes, both of which can be tuned within the Marshall app, as well as adjustable EQ, and control customization. Unlike the Minor III, you can choose to trigger your voice assistant through a long-press of the Motif’s touch controls or flip between three different EQ modes.

The charging case, which once again looks a lot like Apple’s but dressed in textured black plastic, offers wireless charging. Battery life appears to be nearly the same as the AirPods Pro: 4.5 hours per charge with ANC on, and 20 hours of extra life within the charging case, but water protection is slightly better (IPX5 versus IPX4).

Marshall tends to charge a premium for its products compared to other brands, but in this case, the company has decided to provide a lower-cost set of alternatives to Apple’s products. Are they worth considering? Marshall’s first true wireless earbuds, the Mode II, delivered big sound and plenty of style, but we found them to be overpriced. If the Motif ANC and Minor III have found a better balance, they could be an excellent option — we’ll let you know as soon as we try them out.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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