Headphone Arts

Marshall Major Headphones

Go to just about any rock concert and you’re bound to see a stack of Marshall amplifiers onstage. Due to their sound and reliability, countless musicians have relied on them for nearly 50 years. And while Marshall continues to comfortably dominate the guitar amp world, the company recently set its sights on shaking up in the mainstream headphone market. The legendary brand’s latest creation is the Major headphones, which redefine what most listeners will expect from $99 headphones.

With the Major, Marshall designed a stylish albeit rugged headphone that consumers will instantly associate with its legendary amplifiers. It all starts with the square earpieces, which replicate the physical shape of Marshall’s amplifiers. The vinyl is the same that’s used in the amplifiers, and the manufacturer went as far as to put the same texture on the earpieces. Fit and finish are exceptional. To ensure comfort, Marshall utilizes a soft faux-leather on the earpieces and on the inner side of the headband. The cord sports one of the best-designed plugs you’ll encounter in this price range. A gold-plated plug is over-designed to ensure longevity, and includes a spring to ease tension so that the cord doesn’t prematurely wear out.  Marshall also includes a 6.3mm adapter so that users can hook the Major up to a traditional headphone amplifier. The Major collapses for easy and safe storage.

Packing a solid punch, the Major sounded very natural with every type of music I played. Much like Marshall amplifiers, its overall sound character leans a bit towards the warm side, yet the latter characteristic doesn’t subtract from the sound. In fact, it helped create an overall smoothness that allowed long listening sessions to be non-fatiguing. And these headphones are faithful to the source. They let you hear everything on a recording, but do it in a way that isn’t clinical. We all know that there’s nothing worse than a hi-fi product that sounds like it is mining for information.

For example, on Oasis’s “The Masterplan,” off Stop the Clocks, Liam Gallagher’s vocals sounded exceptional. An enhanced sense of body brought the vocals to life and made them sound extremely realistic. There’s a lot happening in the song, but the Major never hid anything. I distinctly heard all the instruments and their associated subtle nuances, aspects that both added to the performance and drew me in. Changing gears, I turned to the Scorpions’ “No One Like You” from Blackout. The killer guitar work on the song proved that the Major possessed a clear and extended treble—never harsh or shrill, never rolled off. No, it wasn’t the most airy and sweet sounding, but still very good. I found myself listening to a wide variety of music with these headphones, and they handled every genre with ease. When I played White Lies’ “Death” from the band’s To Lose a Life album, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the bass.  This song is driven by a bass rhythm, and all the notes claimed solid weight and impact.

If you have low-resolution MP3 files, don’t worry, as they’ll sound very good via the Major. I had no problem listening to some of my lower-quality music files; I just lost a level of realism when I did. When I hooked the Major up to my Peachtree Audio headphone amplifier, the sound quality jumped in every conceivable area. Still, you can get legitimate hi-fi sound from the headphones even if only using a standard iPod.

Of course, the Major isn’t perfect. I really enjoyed the headphones’ sound quality, but noticed that the midrange sounded like it was tuned 1dB lower than the bass and treble, and didn’t have as much presence. In addition, while I liked the style of the square-shaped earpieces, the design didn’t prove to be comfortable for long-term listening. Marshall is trying to draw comparisons to its amplifiers, but a square design isn’t the best shape for ears.

That said, Marshall exceeds expectations with the Major. The level of refinement is exceptional, and the sound is smooth and clear, with extended highs and deep bass. Moreover, the model is built to a standard rarely seen at this price. At $99, the Major constitutes bargain. If you are looking for a huge upgrade at an affordable price, these headphones should be on your short list.  –Kevin Gallucci

Marshall Major Headphones

MSRP: $99
www.marshallheadphones.com