Item: Marshall Majors headphones
Store: Alter, Aegis, Kin, Seven Days.
I saw this in the news last week: Dr Dre is hip hop’s top earner for 2012. Know the last time he put out an album? Twelve years ago. Know where he got that cheese? Headphones, yo. Beats by Dre, yo. Of the man’s USD110 million pre-tax revenue for the year, USD100million came from the ’phones. His brand now accounts for 50% of the high-end headphones market.
That’s some real conversation for your ass.
So, it’s no wonder other names are getting into headphones. Marshall, for one, who have a pedigree of making amplifiers that goes back to 1962. The history of the company is pleasantly homespun and intrinsically intertwined with British rock. The guy who founded the company, Jim Marshall, that’s him there, what a man, he started making amps out of a tiny guitar store in Hanwell, arse-end-of-nowhere, London, at the request of Ritchie Blackmore, the guitarist from Deep Purple and Pete Townshend from the Who. Marshall’s amplifiers were built as a cheaper version of the US brand Fender, but became the leading amplifier in the world for rock music, largely due to their distinct, “crunchy” sound.
Anyway, they’ve been lending their name to headphones for just the past few years, and now they’ll rolled up in China. Marshall do in-ear buds (called Marshall Minors) and these full cups, the Marshall Majors. The styling is clearly meant to echo the Marshall amps: black and deep, matte grey, heavy-duty rubber with the Marshall signature scrawled across each ear. The headband is made of the same vinyl used in Marshall amplifiers.
There are some copper details, but overall it’s a step away from the rainbow-color schemes that you see on Urbanears and Beats by Dre. To be fair, Marshall also do these in white, but we've not seen them in China. They look sickest in black. The packaging has this same no-nonsense ethos.
Savory, right? Look inside the cups. No foam. Foam’s for pussies. Instead you’ve got this black weave, that’s for fucking monsters of rock.
So, how do they sound?
Into the Valley by the Skids. Excellent throaty bass, well dispersed plucky lead guitar that sounds as if it’s floating above my head, really broad, rich sound, with every layer of the mix in a different place in my head. Rock! Ahoy! ahoy! boy, land sea and sky!
Nuristani Woman’s Vocal Chanting Song from Afghanistan. It sounds like three newly bereaved Afghan ladies have popped over and are standing in my kitchen singing me a song about… don’t know, but they're not happy. What’s this doing on my iPod?
Tearing Herself Away from Philip Glass. Huge, beautifully rich sound with nuanced treble and bursting, bright strings. For a mid-range pair of headphones, the sound really is excellently balanced.
Lost in LA by Tin Man (acid EDM). Heavy, chunky bass with zero distortion even at ear-bleed volumes. No wooliness or sogginess to the bass. Acid-house-smiley-face-thumbs-up.
So, good for rock and punk, but also excellent for electronica and heavy bass music. For this price, I’ve not heard anything better.
The cups sit on your ear, not over them, which sometimes means sound can seep in and out, but these seem to block out all ambient noise. Wear them on the street and you can’t hear any car horns or screaming. They are also extremely LOUD. Which they had to be, or they wouldn’t really be Marshalls, but they don’t leak much, so if you’re listening to music in the office or on the Metro, you’re not going to annoy colleagues and randoms too much.
There’s also a clicker on the cord that will pause and play tracks, or skip forward and back with a double or triple click. Useful if you listen to music on a bicycle. There’s a mic on that too if you want to use these headphones with your phone. Don’t do that though, you’ll look dumb. The top-of-the-range model comes with a volume control on the clicker, too (the Major FX, 1100rmb).
Nice other stuffs? The bendy cord means they don’t really tangle up in your bag. The cord around the jack, which is the first place headphones usually malfunction because of the wear the cable gets there, is reinforced. The whole build feels sturdy as hell -- necessary if you’re going to drag them around in the bottom of a bag wherever you go.
If you’re sick of buying fake headphones that start popping and clicking after a week, these feel like they’re going to last a long time. For the money, they sound superb. The only complaint I had was when they came out of the box the headband was really tight, like it was clamping my brain too hard. Maybe my head’s just too bulbous. Don’t know. I stretched them out for a few days and then they felt fine.
Find them at Alter , Aegis, Kin, Seven Days and a few other boutiques around town.
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