So much of the experience of listening to music in 2021 is about freedom. The ability to listen to what you want, when you want, where you want is key. Having more than 70 million songs at your disposal at any time has made streaming services the way to listen to music. But all that freedom is for naught if you’re still tethered to wired headphones. Companies like Apple have helped make Bluetooth headphones the standard by getting rid of the audio jack on iPhones and introducing Air Pods to great success.
Marshall’s foray into Bluetooth headphones has been pretty successful, too. We positively reviewed the Marshall Monitor II headphones when they were first released and eventually named them the top headphones of the year in the 2020 Man awards feature. The Monitor II have a fantastic sound and an overall stylish design.
Now, the brand has introduced the Mode II in-ear wireless Bluetooth earbuds. While they won’t officially be released until March 18, 2021, you can pre-order the earbuds now. Marshall was also kind enough to send us a pair to review. After testing them out, we can confidently say these will be some of the best wireless earbuds released in 2021.
Marshall Mode II Earbuds: What We Liked
At first glance, the Mode II appears to be pretty similar to your standard set of wireless earbuds; there’s the hardshell charging case, a (much-appreciated) long charging cable, a few different sized silicone earbuds tips to customize your fit better, and the actual Mode II themselves. However, once you take a closer look, you’ll realize the entire product has been thoughtfully constructed.
In keeping with Marshall’s overall design aesthetic, both the charging case and the earbuds themselves have been coated with a grain-like leather texture. This was present on the Monitor II cans and helped provide a really welcome bit of grip. Personally, it helps me to instantly recognize the case in my pocket in a way other Bluetooth earbuds don’t. The texture is also beneficial when you actually have the earbuds in your ears, as it helps your fingers better hit the touchpads to control the earbuds themselves.
The earbuds’ circular design does a great job of not only differentiating themselves from many other models on the market but also resting really comfortably in my ears. The interchangeable silicone sizing tips help to better adjust that fit depending on your ends. Navigating through your songs is easy thanks to the simple-to-understand controls; the left earbud handles Transparency mode (more on that in a bit) and voice assistant, while the right earbud handles moving through song tracks or podcasts.
As for the listening experience itself, I found the overall quality to be excellent. I like to listen to Tame Impala’s “Currents” when testing out new earbuds or noise-cancelling headphones, and the experience left me completely satisfied. The earbuds have a vibrant sound that’s great for a variety of different genres. The five hours of constant playback will get you through the majority of your day, and the included case does a pretty good job of charging them back up when they start to lose power (the Marshall Mode II boasts a total of 25 hours of playtime).
Marshall Mode II Earbuds: What We Didn’t Like
The Mode II aren’t noise-canceling per se, which is a major drawback if that’s important to you. However, they naturally do a decent job of blocking out noise. You can also toggle the transparency mode when you do need to hear something.
The one thing I’ll push back on slightly is the price tag. At a suggested retail of $180, I feel like they’re right on the verge of being a little too pricey. The quality is great, but the price point will give some consumers to think twice before purchasing. Noise-cancelling earbuds from Apple and Jabra recently saw price drops, and you can now buy Apple AirPods Pro for $200 (noise-cancelling) and Jabra Elite Active 75t for $180 (noise-cancelling, water- and sweat-proof). But as the brand’s first-ever in-ear true wireless earbuds, there’s plenty of room to make the pricepoint more compelling with future iterations, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the price drop over time.
Finally, one of the reasons we love Marshall consumer audio products is because they have the recognizable look and feel of Marshall’s famous stacks. However, there’s not as much design area on wireless earbuds, and Marshall placed an “M” on the earbuds. You may or may not like this design quirk, depending on how much you love the overall Marshall brand and aesthetic.
The Verdict: Mid-Range Wireless Earbuds Worth the Price of Admission
Overall, the Mode IIs are worth it for Marshall obsessives like me who want real quality earbuds that don’t hurt my ears after extended periods of use. That freedom and comfort is really key when it comes to keeping the good tunes flowing. The Mode II earbuds succeed on all fronts there, and they have me excited to see what the future may bring.