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I'm a fan of Marshall speakers, but I didn't expect its $150 headphones to sound this good

The latest Marshall Major V are relatively affordable, and every rocker should give them a try.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Marshal Major IV headphones.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Marshall Major V headphones are available now on Amazon for $150.
  • These headphones deliver powerful sound, with bass and treble to spare and smooth, subtle mids, and can last for days on a single charge.
  • Note that there's no active noise cancellation, but you really won't need it, especially if you crank your music to 11.

I'm a fan of all types of music. When I'm not listening to classical music, I tend to veer toward harder bands and artists like Rush, Sevendust, Devin Townsend, Judas Priest, or I'll take a goth turn with The Cure, Birthday Massacre, or Sousxie And The Banshees. 

But no matter what I'm listening to, I want it to sound good enough so that I might break out into a bought of headbanging (yes, even to Mahler, Mozart, or Beethoven… come on, they were the original metal).

Also: I test dozens of headphones a year, and these might be the best ones under $100

So, when I received a pair of Marshall Major V headphones, I gave them my best Ronnie James Dio devil horns, opened the box, turned them on, connected them to my Pixel 8 Pro, and fired up Tom Sawyer by Rush.

From the introductory keyboard punch, I knew these babies were going to be winners. No matter what music I pushed through them, I was in my happy place. These on-ear cans from Marshall are good.

View at Amazon

The specs

  • Driver Impedance: 32 Ω. 
  • 40 mm dynamic drivers with a sensitivity of 99 dB SPL
  • Frequency range: 20-20,000Hz
  • 100+ hours of wireless playback time and 15 hours with a 15-minute charge
  • Multi-directional control knob for play, pause, skip, and volume adjustment
  • 3.5mm socket so another person can plug in and listen to your music
  • Bluetooth LE Audio ready
  • Weight: 165 grams
  • Price: $149 on Amazon

My experience

From the very first measure of music, I knew these on-ear headphones were going to be outstanding. Are they audiophile quality? Not really. Why? Mostly because they color the sound far too much to please those who prefer a neutral studio monitor-like pallet. But if you like an EQ curve perfectly suited for rock (with punchy bass, subtle mids, and splashy highs), these headphones will have you smiling and banging your head for hours. 

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One thing to keep in mind is that I do tend to prefer an EQ curve that is indicative of 80s rock. Think Van Halen at their Van Halen-yist; punchy bass, pronounced treble, and recessed mids. If you prefer a more even EQ curve, you might not like the sound produced by these headphones as anything in the midrange (between 250Hz and 800Hz) is going to be reduced dramatically. If singer-songwriter is your genre of choice, these headphones are a hard sell. But even the dulcet, groovy sounds of Miles Davis were well-defined.

No matter what music I listened to, I found myself really digging in. Even though these headphones are more suited for rock, I decided to listen to Elgar's Cello Concerto (played by one of the greatest, Jacqueline du Pré). If you know the piece (and du Pré's rendition), you know how much of a gut punch the opening is. The Marshal Major V honored her performance with the ferocity with which she played.

So, yeah, throw some classical music at the Major V, and you won't be disappointed. Truth be told, I couldn't find a genre of music these didn't love.

Also: The best over-ear headphones: Expert tested and reviewed

As far as fit is concerned, these headphones are comfy. Because they're fairly lightweight (and well-padded), you could sport these for hours and barely notice they're there (other than the punchy, crunchy sound spilling into your ears). 

In the box, you'll find a USB-C cord for charging and a 3.5mm for plugging in and listening with a wired connection (instead of USB).

ZDNET's buying advice

Of all the headphones I've tested over the past year, I'd say the Marshall Major V had me smiling and banging my head more than any other. And with the easy-to-use joystick, controlling music is a treat. It certainly helps that they're affordable, too, priced at just $150 at the time of writing.

If you're looking for a pair of headphones that will last for days on a single charge, can deliver that classically heavy Marshall sound, and won't feel as if something is squeezing your head hard enough to break through to the meaty center, the Marshall Major V are hard to beat.

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