The Marshall Headphones: Major and Minor

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My impression with the Marshall headphone was around a month ago, in a brief in-store audition. I thought it was a fun headphone with a good voicing for rock. The overall fit was comfortable, the sound isolation very good, the dimensions are quite compact and can be folded, and the build quality seems quite solid overall. I got a few of the local forum members to go check out the Marshall Major and tell me what they think of it. Most of them returned with quite a positive impression: that the Major was a fun, toe-tapping headphone that works well with the music that they were listening to. Up until that point all the impressions seem fairly positive, so despite failing to obtain a sample from Zound Industries, I pressed on to get a sample for a review, and finally I’ve gotten one, courtesy of www.kantong-kresek.com, and Indonesian headphone retailer. In addition to the Major, I’ve also received the Marshall Minor, and so I decided to make this into a double review.

I realized that the Marshall headphones were manufactured by Zound Industries, an OEM headphone company that manufactures headphones for a lot of different brands, including the Urbanears label. In a way, the Major had a similar timbre to the Urbanears Plattan which retails for $60. I don’t know if the drivers are the same, but the tuning of the Major is clearly ahead and better than the Urbanears Plattan. Even if the drivers were the same (something I haven’t yet confirmed), the difference in housing, damping, and pads can make enough differences in the resulting sound quality that you’re not going to confuse the sound of the two as being the same. And again, in the case of the Urbanears Medis to the Marshall Minor, Zound Industries was wise enough to make the sound different and so to justify the added price on the Marshall Minor. So these Marshalls are clearly more than just a re-badged product.

MARSHALL MAJOR

The Marshall Major can somehow be considered as a baby Sennheiser HD25-1. It has the same forward character that is good for rock. The bass is not too much or overpowering, but it carries the beat very well for most modern alternative, progressive, or hard rock bands. The PRaT factor is definitely happening. All of these for a good $100 less than the Sennheiser, but accordingly I am not going to confuse the Major as a superior headphone than the Senn. Although the Senn’s bass is a little bit punchier, the Major has a little bit more bass body for an overall weightier sound. The overall sound is also a little darker than the Senn, as the mid and upper treble is less prominent on the Major. The upper midrange may be a little too much on some recordings, so in my opinion Zound Industries can still improve the tonal balance a little more. The clarity factor is not quite up to par with the Senn, probably due to the differences in treble presence, but listening to the midrange, I think the resolution of the driver in the Major is better than the old drivers in the HD25-1.

The Major is the kind of headphone that won’t stand up to total scrutiny. The upper mid is one area that I’ve mentioned earlier that would be better had it been lower some 2-3dB. But as with the other portables I’ve reviewed, I don’t think that perfect sound is what portables about. Portables should be fun sounding, lively, toe-tapping, be comfortable to wear, tough build, and with high mobility factor. Previously, the HD25-1 was one of the most recommended portable headphones I’ve seen, but the $199 pricetag in the US (and up to $350 in Asia) is way higher than what most people are willing to pay for a portable. And though the build quality is very tough, it was not foldable, something that happens to be a very important factor for a portable headphone. There were other recommendations, of course, but everything in the ultra portable range (i.e Koss PortaPro or Senn PX100) is not going to give you the isolation and the tight and punchy bass that you get from fully sealed models. Recently I discovered the Audio Technica’s SJ-series headphones, and in a way it was a good product as a whole, but I think it was too “generic” and too mainstream to catch on with the enthusiasts crowd.

So, based on all of that consideration, I think that the Major has totally delivered. It’s foldable and more portable than the HD25-1. It is more comfortable, tougher built, and is more isolating than favorite ultra portables like the V-Jays or the Sennheiser PX100-II. Sure, it’s a rebranded product, but the Marshall design happens to look great in this case (unlike say Skullcandies). Looking at the overall package, I think this would make for a great recommendation for people looking for a portable.

MARSHALL MINOR

In addition to the Major, Marshall has also released an earbuds companion called the Minor. The most striking thing about this earbuds is the patented EarClick construction that locks the earbuds securely in place. I’ve seen similar concepts designed by Sennheiser in the MX680 Adidas earbuds, but I think that Zound Industries’ EarClick design is easier to mount and feels more comfortable on the ears. It also looks more “normal” than the fins in the Sennheiser MX680 Adidas, but this is just my personal opinion.

Although the sound is an improvement over the Urbanears Medis which shares the same design, I find the sound of the Minor to have an over dominating mids and upper bass, while the lower bass and the treble section is significantly rolled off. I try not to be too critical when reviewing mainstream oriented products like the Minor, but in this case the lack of low bass and treble presence is far too big to ignore. Though earbuds are normally known for their open and airy sound, the Minor sound totally devoid of any air. Instead you are presented with an over dominating midrange that sounds overly thick and muddy, with little impressions of detail. It would be hard for me to turn this one into any recommendations, regardless of your preference. Within the same budget and somehow a similar function, the Sennheiser Adidas PMX-680 is much more recommended.

END THOUGHTS

I’ve had a chance to listen to audition the Urbanears headphones (Plattan and Medis) before doing this review, and honestly they’re tough to recommend. Likewise the Marshall Minor. But I think Marshall (and Zound Industries) has got an interesting product in the Marshall Major. As I’ve said, it’s got all the right components to make a successful portable headphone. The comfort and cool factor is definitely higher than the Audio Technica SJ-series that I reviewed last month. Somewhat, though the technicalities are comparable to the SJ-55, the Major has its own fun presentation that differentiates it from the SJ-55. It also isolates very well, is foldable, and the build quality seems solid enough. The sound quality can’t quite challenge the Sennheiser HD25-1 yet, which is quite surprising I thought, given the age of the drivers on the HD25-1. I think it’s more of an acoustics housing & damping issue though, as the resolution of the drivers in the Marshall Major sound better to my ears than the Sennheiser’s. I think the Major is a solid entry by Marshall to the mainstream market, but it’ll be interesting to see how it performs among the headphone crowd.


Gears used for review:
Headphones: Marshall Major, Minor, Sennheiser HD25-1, Urbanears Plattan, Medis.
Amplifiers: Fostex HP-P1, PA2V2, AMBLabs Mini 3
Source: Ipod Classic, Fostex HP-P1

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  • Anonymous

    This is the first time we’ve published a review without doing our own photo session. I apologize for that and I hope this will be a rare exception. I just have too many things to do at the moment and don’t have the time to do a photo shoot.

    • http://twitter.com/J_McProgger James McProgger

      yeah, I was waiting some cool photos of the Minor, its a very well built good looking thing. nice reading though, as usual.

      • Anonymous

        Yea, sorry about the pictures, James.

        • Alex

          Hi Mike! How is isolation and comfort compared to the SJ55? I plan to use them mainly in metro and plane. I also have the sony mdr z700 on my list if you’ve already listened to them. Thanks!

          • Anonymous

            The isolation and comfort is better on the Major, when compared to the SJ-55. 

            I also have the ZX700, and though overall the ZX700 is a more mature headphone compared to both the SJ-55 and the Major, I think the Sony is more neutral/flat while the Major is more fun. I was thinking of writing an article on the ZX700, but I’ve been postponing it for a while and I’m not so sure when I’m gonna have the time to write about that Sony. The tonality is very close to the Z1000 but with lesser refinement levels. Obviously the price is quite a big jump to the Z1000 so the lesser refinement is expected. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/node.trom Lionel Phua

    Thanks ! have been waiting for this !

    • Anonymous

      Hey, thanks Lionel!

  • http://twitter.com/Brian_K3 Brian Fu

    Whoa, I actually agree with your impressions Mike. What is the world coming to? :D

    I really like the Major. It’s more-or-less a HD25-lite in my opinion.

    • http://twitter.com/J_McProgger James McProgger

      Hope you’re right because I have a Major in the way, and I love my HD25.
      the folding mechanism is pretty cool, If everything goes as planned, this will be my “quicky on the go” rig.

      Mike, does the sound improve by amping it?

      • Anonymous

        Yes the sound is improved but slight. I was looking for things like bass
        boost and such rather than getting more detail out of the headphones. I
        actually think the detail level is very good for a portable, even
        unamped, so I didn’t think it was too important to pair it with a high
        end amp. I was using it more with the PA2V2 amp, though I also used it
        with the Fostex HP-P1 with good results. The clarity may not be up to
        the HD25-1 level, but I think that’s due to the frequency balance rather
        than driver resolution.

        • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

          I love my HD 25-1, so perhaps I should give the Marshall a try. They cost 89 € here, for the Senns I’ve paid 169 €.

          • Anonymous

            Well yes, but if you already have the Senn then the Marshall would be a downgrade IMO.

            • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

              Well it’s more meant as a cheaper and foldable alternative for mobile use (e.g. holiday trip).

              • Anonymous

                If that’s the case then the Marshall should be good yes.

  • Aawil24

    My majors cracked and broke where the metal band meets the plastic hinge after 4 months. Loved the look of them, they sounded ok nothing great, ended up replacing them with a pair of grado sr80s.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a pity! Thanks for letting us know!

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/5TSIUS4PLF5UI3O3M6IQWF6F7M Sam

      The same has happened tp mine, does anyone know of a place where i can get them fixed?

      • Jan Van Der Beek

        Holy damn, same here, after 6 months, i was listening some music before sleeping, never used them incorrectly, i don´t even used them outside home, only user was me and all of a sudden…Crack! OMG i thought, what the hell? They broke, i fixed them with heavy glue and silicone, then rounded the excess and voilá, like new. But now, i´m not as confident when i use them, i feel they will crack anytime again. Great sound, deep bass, they were all i needed but now i don´t trust them anymore. Replaced them with cheap Skullcandies Uprock and they are (skullcandies) very inferior in every aspect. Big heads, stay away from the majors, they rock but you will end rocking them off.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Unfortunate, the build quality with these Marshall headphones. Have you tried contacting them for a replacementt?

  • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

    I really like the way these look but I’m skeptical about their sound quality. I don’t know, call it a gut feeling. :p I wish they had a regular cable instead of that coiled one. 

    On a less Marshall-ey note: I’m loving my Superlux HD651! Thanks for recommending them! Sound great with easy bassy electronica. I actually bought 4 different colours (they were $7 bucks each!). I know I know… ;) They don’t come close to my HD25-1 II’s but for $7 they’re amazing. 

    • Anonymous

      Lol.. gut feeling huh? Well it’s going to have a tough time being
      compared to the HD651 at $7 bucks each!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the Superlux though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

        Hahaha gut feeling is nonsense ofcourse, but the Major is $129 here in Holland. I can’t imagine them sounding like >$100 headphones. I’ll try to audition them somewhere though. 

        By the way, totally forgot to ask you: will you be reviewing those <$150 Topping amp/dacs you see popping up everywhere? Mp4nation ships a lot of different models and I'm sure they'll send someone like you a review sample. I'm quite curious to the performance of these desktop thingies. :) Thanks for considering!

        • Anonymous

          It’s funny how a $30 increase in price can affect the perception of
          value so much. I agree with you though, $139 is a bit steep for these.
          But if you have the chance to audition the Major, I think you’ll be
          impressed by how comfortable they are in comparison to the Superlux HD651s.

          I’ve seen those topping amps, and they don’t look that impressive to me
          both in specs and build quality. They’re class-D amps I believe, and the
          enclosure looks fairly generic, many generic brand names from China
          comes with those enclosures. Anyway, which model do you think is the
          best one?

          • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

            I’ve got a Topping TP41 amp. They are mainly made for use with speakers. Therefore the class D chip is fine and efficient. The headphone output though is made of a cheap headphone amp chip. So I would not recommend them for headphones:
            https://picasaweb.google.com/118078439912946587810/HiFi#5666690420196138738

            • Anonymous

              Yea I did have a chance to audition a Topping amp as well though I can’t remember which model. It has a DAC built in and I don’t think it was a class D though.

  • narco

    MARSHALL
    MAJOR

    The Marshall Major can somehow be considered as a baby Sennheiser
    HD25-1. It has the same forward character that is good for rock. The
    bass is not too much or overpowering, but it carries the beat very well
    for most modern alternative, progressive, or hard rock bands. The PRaT
    factor is definitely happening. All of these for a good $100 less than
    the Sennheiser, but accordingly I am not going to confuse the Major as a
    superior headphone than the Senn. Although the Senn’s bass is a little
    bit punchier, the Major has a little bit more bass body for an overall
    weightier sound. The overall sound is also a little darker than the
    Senn, as the mid and upper treble is less prominent on the Major. The
    upper midrange may be a little too much on some recordings, so in my
    opinion Zound Industries can still improve the tonal balance a little
    more. The clarity factor is not quite up to par with the Senn, probably
    due to the differences in treble presence, but listening to the
    midrange, I think the resolution of the driver in the Major is better
    than the old drivers in the HD25-1.

    The Major is the kind of headphone that won’t stand up to total
    scrutiny. The upper mid is one area that I’ve mentioned earlier that
    would be better had it been lower some 2-3dB. But as with the other
    portables I’ve reviewed, I don’t think that perfect sound is what
    portables about. Portables should be fun sounding, lively, toe-tapping,
    be comfortable to wear, tough build, and with high mobility factor.
    Previously, the HD25-1 was one of the most recommended portable
    headphones I’ve seen, but the $199 pricetag in the US (and up to $350 in
    Asia) is way higher than what most people are willing to pay for a
    portable. And though the build quality is very tough, it was not
    foldable, something that happens to be a very important factor for a
    portable headphone. There were other recommendations, of course, but
    everything in the ultra portable range (i.e Koss PortaPro or Senn PX100)
    is not going to give you the isolation and the tight and punchy bass
    that you get from fully sealed models. Recently I discovered the Audio
    Technica’s SJ-series headphones, and in a way it was a good product as a
    whole, but I think it was too “generic” and too mainstream to catch on
    with the enthusiasts crowd.

    So, based on all of that consideration, I think that the Major has
    totally delivered. It’s foldable and more portable than the HD25-1. It
    is more comfortable, tougher built, and is more isolating than favorite
    ultra portables like the V-Jays or the Sennheiser PX100-II. Sure, it’s a
    rebranded product, but the Marshall design happens to look great in
    this case (unlike say Skullcandies). Looking at the overall package, I
    think this would make for a great recommendation for people looking for a
    portable.
    Major outdoor concert and external noise is such a good head phone?

  • narco

    Major outdoor concert and external noise is such a good head phone?

    • Anonymous

      Sorry?

    • JMcProgger

      Not sure if i get it correctly but, If you are asking about the isolation or blocking of external noise, they block a bit more than portable open small headphones. but not enough as to call it isolation.

      • Anonymous

        That’s true.

  • JMcProgger

    I have a serious problem with the Major, The cups wont rotate sideways, and my ears are not parallel to each other, (as most human beings) 

    in a view directly up to of the head:
    your ears would have to be like this, so the Major fits perfect:                    |(HEAD)| 
    my ears (and most people, I believe) are slightly like this:     (HEAD)/

    as a consequent the cups, even with its very soft earpad, press hard on the back of my ears.

    The piece that holds the cup and headband together is the problem, maybe they had to sacrifice that movement so it could fold to the inside the way it does.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, they don’t rotate, but I don’t think I had any problems with the
      cups being that way though. Well, each people’s head is different.

  • http://twitter.com/andylamkw Andy Lam

    Is this as good as the Audio Technica SJ55s?

    • Anonymous

      Comparable, but slightly different. Please check the earlier comments, I believe someone has asked the same question and you may want to check it out.

      • http://twitter.com/andylamkw Andy Lam

        Your reply to the earlier comments was that the isolation and comfort on the Marshall Major is better than the Sj55s. How is the sound quality comparable?  

        • Anonymous

          Well technically they are about the same level. The Marshall has more focus on the upper midrange (actually the entire frequency is more mid-centric on the Marshall), where the SJ55 has a more sparkly treble, a bit thin on the mids, then again punchy on the bass, like the Marshall.

  • gidot

    I’m looking for a good portable headphone, mainly for commuting (subway, tram, etc.), and can’t decide between the Major, SJ-55, HD238 or the v-jays (Grado SR60(i)?)
    Can you please help me?

  • Duna21

    Mike,

    I am used to hd202. How do they compare?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Duna,
      The HD202 is more laid back and with a more spacious soundstage.
      The Marshall (Major I assume) is more forward, more upfront, punchier bass, but narrower soundstage.

      • Duna21

        which is more fun to you?

  • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

    Does someone know if there any velour pads available for the Marshalls?

    • Anonymous

      Not me, sorry I don’t know.

  • Sam

    how does Marshall Major fair up  for RnB and Hip Hop? 

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Sam, it should be good.

  • Trinia del Rosario

    Hi Mike,

    I am very intyerested in these headphones. Would you recommend them for pop/ballads (Chinese pop mainly)  and rock (e.g. Bowie).  And what would be a good Fiio amp to pair the headphones with?  Thank you so much for your time in answering my inquiry.
     

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Trinia, 
      I don’t think you need an amp for these, but I don’t think they’ll play well with Chinese Pop either. What Chinese pop anyway? 

      • Trinia del Rosario

         Hi Mike,
        Oh OK, Chinese Pop  – mostly ballads, and slow rock songs, no hard rock, metal or hip hop/RnB or dance.  I also listen to Brit Pop/Alternative and Bowie.  I  am also looking at the Senn HD598. Would the Senns fit my musical taste better?  Thanks again for answering!  All the best to you and the site!

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Well the HD598 is a much better headphone overall..

          I’d still think that the Marshall Major will be a safer choice. What I’m saying is that with slow ballads and slow rock the HD598 will shine, but some faster brit pop and alternative, it may not be so good.

  • Trinia del Rosario

    Hi Mike!  Finally got the Marshall headphones and pairing them with an Ipod Classic (no amps), true to its brand name, they are rockin’ headphones..  I’m thinking of getting a pair of hi-fi headphones in the $100 range, would the Senn PX200-II fit the bill for slow quiet songs, mostly that would highlight the vocals and treble (I prefer Senns more than the other brands, I am also looking at the V-Jays)?  Your suggestion would again be much appreciated.  Thank you!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes the PX200-II would do that well, but I think the V-Jays would be even better.

    • dalethorn

      If you can get the Beyer DTX501p in your area, it’s orders of magnitude better than the PX headphones. The Beyer appears to be a clone/OEM of the Soundmagic P30, but I can’t verify that they sound the same. Great carrycase included.

  • Endra Montana

    Hi Mike, which one u prefer on Rock, Slowrock music this Marshall vs Superlux HD669? Thanks ya..

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I’m not too familiar with the HD669. Perhaps I would lean more toward the HD660.

      • Endra Montana

         oo. thanks for replying Mike.. i thought u have the HD669. :D

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Alright, Endra. :)

  • Tal Spector

    Hi Mike.
    I own a Major, and being sophisticated and all that, I wondered why people say that some headphones are for specific genres. Shouldn’t the optimal headphones have a perfect flat response, which will provide the sound as it is? Moreover, why are some headphones considered “bad” are higher tempos (you mentioned the HD598 on a previous comment here as worse at higher tempos)?

    Don’t worry about boring with your comment.

    Thank you in advance,
    Tal

    • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

      Interesting questions. Allow me to join in the discussion.

      1. Audio is subjective. People have their own preferences. So I don’t think there’s an optimal headphone, just like there’s no best headphone.

      2. Providing sound as it is will depend on the recording itself. Most modern music intentionally use a lot of digital processing to create the desired sound output. That said, IMHO perfect flat response in a headphone is actually not that interesting when you’re listening to music. But I don’t think the same thing applies to audio engineer, working on recordings in studios.

      3. Some headphones are just designed for slower types of music, while other can handle fast music just fine.

      • Tal Spector

        Thank you, Gorborman.
        I understand the main points you make, but what makes the headphone tempo response different? What gives the ability of higher speeds, and how does it work?
        Thanks in advance,
        Tal

        • http://gorboman.wordpress.com/ Gorboman

          That, unfortunately, is beyond my knowledge.

          • Matthew Lee

            I don’t know too much about this in terms of a engineering stand point, but my understanding is some headphones or even amps are catered to different type and tempo of music. Some will sound just fine with fast pace music like rock and pop music but will sound hollow for slow pace music. The reverse will be some will catered to say classical where the pace is not as fast but it will sound muddy on pop and rock music.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              That’s true.

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  • Roman Ishchuk

    I’ve owned a pair of marshal marshall majors for about 3-4 month now with no problems at all in terms of them falling appart =) just wanted to share some things I’ve noticed about these headphones. i bought mine to be used with a guitar multieffect amp (boss gt-6) as well as a small portable vox metal amp. through those amps, and i guess my low-end amplified yamaha sound receiver, the bass on these headphones is unbelievable. they sound absulutely incredible when the sound is drawn from an amp. on my pc, laptop and N9, however, a lot of the bass is completely gone. mids and highs sound fantastic though. i guess what i’m trying to say is that unless you run these headphones through a headphone amp of some sort, you will be getting no more than 60% of their true capability. i don’t know too much about headphone design to be able to explain exactly why they are so power hungry, but if you are going to listen music on these headphones then get a cmoy of.some sort. your run of a mill portable players will translate into a mediocre sound at best. $30 in ear creative labs outperform this set (unamplified) for.sure. amplified, however, the sound is staggeringly good through the marshall majors.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks for sharing, Roman

  • Russel

    Hi Mike! Thanks for this review. I own one and used it for about 5 months but the the plastic sides broke though i dont use it too often sine i have a few pairs of other headphones. Is it normal to have this problem? I dont see anyone say that it did happen to them too. Is it also safe to bend the headband a little bit for comfort and for the plastic parts wont get a little pressure. Thanks!

  • Krunce

    I spent most of today fighting tooth and nail to return a pair of Urban Ears Plattan headphones (I succeeded). I didn’t realize I was so particular about my on-ears until I bought these. Though I’m really lacking the vocabulary to describe my experience of the audio, it felt like the treble was tinny, loud, and piercing, and the bass was non-existent and really shallow. I would re-listen to electronic and poppy r&b songs that I liked, and not be able to hear, essentially, what I liked about them. So I went back to my old, terrible Phillips headphones that I’ve duct-taped back together.

    But I really like the design of the Plattans, and it sounds like this is a Zound thing more generally. Their portable design where you fold the headphones and wrap them with the cord works really well for the way I like to throw my headphones into my backpack at the end of a commute. But I’m afraid to get duped again by Zound… can you tell me a bit more about how the Plattans and the Marshalls compare? Or shall I just abandon this charade altogether and go for the AKG K404s?

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I’ve heard the Plattans at 2 different stores. They aren’t hi-fi certainly. The AKG should be good, but the $37 Amazon price is very minimal for buying sound quality.

      • Dave Ulrich

        I actually did a review of the Plattans for a friends website while back. Not hi-fi, but they were fine with my Ipod. I actually liked the frequency balance quite a bit.